Never mind, I had a very good Argentine meal anyway, not at home in Los Angeles, and not in Buenos Aires, but in a place where I never expected to find such food--Tijuana.
The restaurant was Cheripan in Tijuana's gastronomic zone. And it's as sleek and smart as any I've seen in Buenos Aires.
The chef/owner, Juan Carlos Equiluz, is from Cordoba, Argentina. The chimichurri sauce on the table is Cordoba style, he says, not that I can define what that means. Every chimichurri is different, even in the same city.
Grilled meat is what Argentinian cooking is about. Cheripan's lead steak, entrana de res, is Mexican beef, tender and a little mild for my taste. But the grilled sweetbreads were wonderful, even though not as crispy as those at my favorite parrillada restaurant in Buenos Aires, El Yugo.
The menu has all the Argentine big guns: A variety of steaks; mild, Argentine style chorizo; pasta; provoleta (grilled cheese); typical sandwiches such as choripan (chorizo), and six kinds of empanadas (beef, chorizo, mushroom, corn and cheese, spinach and caprese).
The chorizo, which is made at the restaurant, is quite good. I would like to have tried the provoleta to see what cheese was used. Argentinians in Los Angeles say cheese that holds its shape when grilled isn't available here, so I have never used the little clay provoleta dish that I brought home from Buenos Aires.
The wines set out for my group were Luigi Bosca's La Linda Malbec 2004 from Mendoza and Santa Silvia Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from the Tulum Valley, San Juan.
Waiters walked around the table shaking icy tamarind martinis composed of vodka, Grand Marnier, lemon and lime juices, tamarind and, according to Equiluz, secret components. The same drink with tequila is a tequilino.
You wouldn't get either of these in Argentina, so I feel sorry for folks there. A nice touch is having your own shaker for a refill.
Equiluz also has a gelato shop, and a tamarind martini gelato is on the menu there. We did try his coconut gelato, and a deeply flavored chocolate gelato that turned out to be sugar-free. I would never have guessed.
Super sweet, caramel-like dulce de leche is the Argentinian sweet staff of life. Cheripan puts it in crepes too, and it's frozen stiff at the gelato shop.
Cheripan, Escuadron 201, No. 3151, Distrito Gastronomico, Colonia Aviacion, Tijuana. Tel: (664) 622-9730.
Another branch is at the Plaza Americana Otay, Avenida Tecnologico 2100, Mesa de Otay, Tijuana. Tel: (664) 623-1278.
Argelato Caffe, Plaza Pavilion, Local 114 (by Gandhi and Liverpool), Tijuana. Tel (664) 971-0099.